HARARE – As Zanu PF’s escalating factional and succession wars turn increasingly violent, there are growing fears that President Robert Mugabe’s party may soon implode altogether, taking the country down with it, if the chaos is not mitigated as a matter of urgency.
This sentiment emerged yesterday as hundreds of youths and a smattering of war veterans were, for the second time in a fortnight, bussed to Marondera — mainly from Harare and surrounding farms — in a bid to hound beleaguered Mashonaland East provincial party chairperson, Ray Kaukonde, out of office.
Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo told the Daily News yesterday that certain “power hungry elements” in the party wanted to usurp power from elected provincial chairpersons by removing them from office.
“The position of the party is that there should be no demonstrations. But there are some elements who want to achieve certain objectives and they are causing instability in the party. These elements are demonstrating against elected people, leaders who were voted into power by the people,” he said.
Gumbo also warned that the plots to oust the provincial chairpersons were linked to the party’s December elective congress.
“They want to usurp power and use it for their political ends and we are aware that the congress is three weeks away. All this causes instability in the party and in government. We are a party that follows set procedures and the constitution,” he added.
He said the attempts to dethrone provincial chairperson would be discussed at this week’s politburo meeting.
“We cannot go on like this and we have to put an end to this. At a time that the economy is on the brink of collapse we have people raising money to bus people all over the country to cause instability,” he said.
Yesterday, a rowdy mob in Marondera passed a purported vote-of-no-confidence against Kaukonde and the entire regional party executive, accusing them of undermining First Lady Grace Mugabe, among many other serious but untested allegations.
Yesterday’s assault on Kaukonde, dubbed the Final Push by its organisers, followed a similar, but unsuccessful demonstration a fortnight ago that came soon after both Mugabe and his wife Grace soundly rubbished the embattled businessman-cum-politician.
It also followed similar choreographed attacks on other sitting party provincial chairpersons — a development that has motivated party spokesman Rugare Gumbo to observe ruefully that Zanu PF’s ugly infighting is now a threat to both the country’s precarious economy and Mugabe’s legacy.
The crude crusades — usually fronted by the same crew of rowdy hired youths plied with alcohol, as well as a few genuine war veterans — often turn out to be anti-Mujuru coup plots in effect.
Zanu PF Midlands chairperson Jason Machaya was sent packing at the weekend after the party’s executive passed a contended vote-of-no-confidence against him, becoming the fourth regional party boss to be put under such pressure in the past month — following similar actions against Temba Mliswa in Mashonaland West, Callisto Gwanetsa in Masvingo and Amos Midzi of Harare.
More provincial chairpersons, including Andrew Langa of Matabeleland South and John Mvundura of Manicaland, are expected to also come under similar pressure soon from a hardline faction aligned to Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, ahead of Zanu PF’s key elective congress to be held in Harare early next month.
Many Zanu PF members say the Mnangagwa faction is going all out to purge provincial chairpersons linked to the Mujuru camp which will allegedly allow the Mnangagwa camp to influence both nominations as well as the people who would be appointed to the party’s central committee.
A politburo member told the Daily News yesterday that what was happening in the party was “extremely concerning”, amid worries that Zanu PF was now headed for a violent split.
“Many of us have been very optimistic about the party and the question of succession (Mugabe’s) until now. But we are no longer sure that a violent implosion of the party can be avoided at this point, unless something dramatic happens in the next few weeks,” the politburo member who requested anonymity said.
Yesterday’s demonstration against Kaukonde took place as reports filtered out about violent disturbances at Zanu PF’s offices in Gwanda, also related to the party’s ugly factional and succession wars, and where a bid to dethrone Langa hit a snag when youths and war veterans aligned to him blocked demonstrators from an opposing camp from seizing the provincial offices.
Analysts say the infighting is set to worsen amid reports that the divisive Grace plans to once again meet regional party officials in the next few weeks, in preparation for the party’s eagerly-awaited elective congress next month.
In that light, this week’s politburo meeting promises to be another stormy affair for Mugabe and Zanu PF, with the ongoing and controversial suspensions of party officials perceived to be sympathetic to embattled Vice President Joice Mujuru likely to dominate discussions.
Last week’s meeting was a brutal affair that saw the gathered party bigwigs slug it out in front of a seemingly impotent Mugabe, who only managed to calm boiling emotions by promising to institute a formal inquiry into the deadly factionalism devouring the party.
In that meeting, Grace’s savage shellacking of Mujuru at her controversial “Meet the People” rallies last month dominated discussions, with Mujuru herself apparently taking the war to her enemies and being supported by the majority of the politburo.
Mugabe, who turns 91 soon, is the only leader Zimbabwe has had since the country attained its independence from Britain in 1980. During this period, virtually all of Zimbabwe’s neighbours have had at least four leaders, leaving Mugabe — Africa’s oldest and one of the longest serving on the continent — the odd man out in the region, and with no potential successor in sight.
The frenetic push to oust Kaukonde continues despite the fact that the Mashonaland East provincial coordinating committee (PCC) defied Mugabe and Grace last weekend, affirming the fact that it had full confidence in the beleaguered regional party boss.
Sources who attended that PCC meeting said central committee member and Marondera West legislator, Retired Brigadier-General Ambrose Mutinhiri moved the motion that the province fully backed Kaukonde.
Similarly, a provincial executive council (Pec) meeting held last week in Masvingo and attended by 35 members, affirmed Gwanetsa’s leadership of the province.
In a statement last week, Gumbo said the country’s battered economy had been the biggest casualty of the protracted and ugly wars devouring Zanu PF.
Gumbo, one of only two remaining members of the Dare ReChimurenga council that directed the liberation war, said the factional fights have caused “unprecedented levels of tension within the party with the result that our focus has shifted from our core business as the party of government”.
“The time has come to redirect that focus back to our main purpose and to ensure that we chart the best economic way forward for the Zimbabwean people in line with our election pledges and consistent with the aspirations of the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-economic Transformation (ZimAsset),” he said.
In a rare admission by the ruling class of the many crises bedevilling the country, Gumbo said it was an open secret that “many of our people are struggling to make ends meet as the current economic climate, exacerbated by years of damaging economic sanctions, takes its toll”.
In her continuing dignified responses to the attacks on her, Mujuru implored Zimbabweans on Sunday to pray for their country and for peace, with analysts praising her for choosing to keep her counsel in the face of extreme provocation by her party rivals.
Economic analysts have also warned Mugabe and his misfiring government that Zanu PF’s increasingly violent factional and succession wars would sink Zimbabwe’s ailing economy to levels worse than those witnessed five years ago unless they acted decisively now.
Respected economist John Robertson told the Daily News that the economy would persist on a downward spiral unless the country resolved its succession problem urgently.
Economist Christopher Mugaga also said the acrimony playing out in the governing party did not augur well for the country, both politically and economically. Daily News